Helping Water Work for Women in Mali

by |January 7, 2011

Meeting with the women's association in Koila-Markala.

Last month I went to visit our Mali project site with two other Columbia Water Center staffers, Daniel Stellar and Abdrabbo Shehata. We visited the village and garden where we worked last year (Koila Markala and Tibibas, respectively) and many other gardens where we hope to work in the future. All of these areas are within the Millennium Village Tiby cluster. Farmers here mainly grow rice, and in smaller quantities they also grow horticultural crops in gardens, such as shallots and melons. But unfortunately they face a number of challenges which make it difficult for them to make much of a profit from their fields. With our project, we are hoping to help them improve their irrigation systems, increase the diversity of their crops, increase their plot sizes, and make other changes that will lead to increasing their incomes.

Residents of Koila-Markala giving feedback on the project.

In 2010 our project in the Tiby cluster worked to support and improve horticulture (done mainly by women) in the village of Koila-Markala. The program helped to finance improved fencing and the purchase of 12 water pumps, and also helped connect the women to higher value markets in which to sell their produce (melons in this case). In an earlier post we posted excerpts and pictures from a progress report. The growing season has since ended and the results show that the project’s interventions made it possible for incomes to increase two to three times.

Last month we went to Koila-Markala and met with the women’s association and a group of men who are rice farmers to get their feedback about the project. They told us that not only did their incomes increase, but they also saw other positive effects, such as not having to send their children out of the village to find work for the season. We also talked about what they would like to do in the next phase of the project. Ideas included assisting them with organizing groups to do the seeding, tilling, irrigating and other gardening tasks, and also helping to finance the purchase of fuel for the irrigation pumps.

Meeting with farmers from another garden within the Tiby cluster.

While there we visited other gardens within the Tiby village cluster and found that though most of them were in varying states of disrepair, people were still doing their best to use them. One of the most difficult challenges is watering these gardens. While the Niger River and canals are not all far away, they are lacking the infrastructure to efficiently transport the water to irrigate their fields. As a result, they mostly have to use buckets to water their gardens, which takes up a huge amount of time and energy and makes it impossible for them to garden larger plots.

We are still working out the details for the next phase of the project, which is funded by the PepsiCo Foundation, but we are hoping that it will include an expansion to include some of these neighboring villages and gardens. We are really looking forward to returning to Mali in 2011!

For many more pictures from our trip, check out our Flickr page.

Follow Columbia Water Center on Facebook and Twitter

Get our newsletter

I'd like to get more stories like this.
Email address
Secure and Spam free...

Leave a Reply

4 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
3 Comment authors
Samantha TressDonaldBernhard Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Dear people. To see work like this done, it does bring relief to the many problems mankind faces. I would like to ask just a few questions and hope this does not sound inappropriate. So for your project: Does the project change the amount of their being self – sufficient farmers? Does the self sufficiency lower or does it rise? Do the people abandon techniques, used maybe for a long time, in favour of using water pumps for instance, but at this time relying heavily on input from “outside” resources like spare parts and possibly ever more expensive fuel? Could,… Read more »


Bernhard, I did not see a reply to your queries you posted and found them to be quite valid. I have spent many years in Mali working in the private sector and have seen many programs that come along that are really half-baked seemingly to allow foreigners to come in and feel good about themselves. It is a rare occasion when an organization, or a person comes in with the dedication to understand the variety of cultural differences, Mali’s lack of understanding of more modern technologies, or teaching them to see the big picture. Mali is a day to day,… Read more »

Samantha Tress

Dear Bernhard and Donald, Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments and questions, and apologies for taking some time to get back to you. I certainly want to address your questions. Does the project change the amount of their being self – sufficient farmers? Does the self sufficiency lower or does it rise? We have completed one full horticulture season with the melon garden at Tibibas. The project provided fencing materials, pumps and seeds, and the farmers are repaying us for these inputs over time. They do not have the capital to purchase these inputs up front, but they are… Read more »


[…] interest the development of a customized tensiometer’s to help rice farmers in that country. The Mali portion of the Rural Outcomes project, conducted in partnership with the Millennium Villages Initiative, […]